March 20, 2016: Crete’s Dinosauria Museum

Today is Sunday and our last day in Crete’s capital of Irakleio.  We did great and were awake by a little after eight, a practical miracle for us.  We showered, got the kids ready, got the room packed up and were out the door pretty quickly.   Not a rush, we had time to get ready at a decent pace, but we were efficient and focused.

We checked out, packed up the Kia and were on our way.  We had a pretty good idea of where we had to drive, about fifteen kilometres east of the city centre where we were staying.  Not a bad drive at all.  The kids knew that they were getting a surprise today but had no idea what we were going to be spending the day doing.

Dominica had found the Dinosaur Museum called Dinosauria while doing some online research and it looked really good.  We were very lucky as it was open only on Sundays because of having a sort of soft opening for the season or something.  They had recently done some renovations and there was a lot new and changed so they seemed to be testing things out before getting back into full swing.  So this worked out great for us as so many other things are closed on Sundays but it is one of the few days that we can reliably get out and attempt to do something.

We pulled into the dinosaur museum and the girls were very excited.  They saw the signs and knew what it was.  They both love museums and love dinosaurs.  We arrived at a good time, there was barely anyone there.

Dinosauria Park
Liesl at Dinosauria Park on Crete

Admission was forty eight Euros for the four of us, which included the cost of doing the 3D movie thing that costs more.  Dominica and I stopped and got coffee before going in as we had not had anything all morning.

Liesl Entering the Dinosauria Park Museum

The first part of the museum was just fossil recreations in a traditional museum setting.  This was nice and informative and very “museum” feeling.  Liesl enjoyed it but Luciana was a little frightened of it.  Although I was never sure if she was afraid because they were bones, dinosaurs or just that she was worried that parts of the exhibit might fall onto her because the latter is what she actually stated was her fear (some heavy pieces were suspended from the ceiling to explain this concern.)

After that portion you go through a “portal” that takes you back in time (although this is explained no where) and then then you go through an indoor section for a while that has “live” animatronic dinosaurs that was nice but not very long.  I was surprised how quickly we were moved outside (although we were moving at our own pace, we never saw any other people indoors) but then we discovered that the majority of the “park” was outside, not inside.  This is fairly customary in consistently good weather countries like this.  Once we were outside Luciana was very happy.

Luciana by Dinosauria Waterfall

The outside park was loaded with enormous, moving, animatronic dinosaur exhibits.  It was really well done and covered a lot of space.  We were quite impressed with the scale here.  Dominica said that the dinosaurs here were better than Disney’s Universe of Energy and on par with their Dinosaur: The Ride.

Liesl and Luciana at Dinosauria Park

We took some time and did nearly all of the outdoor dinosaur park stuff.  There is a waterfall and a little river running through the park and a pond in the middle with Dominica’s favourite dinosaur in it.

Dominica with Her Favourite Dinosaur

Everyone really enjoyed this part of the park.  And the weather was perfect.  We had started with jackets but decided to ditch them once we were in the sun.  It was cool enough that being in the sun felt just right.  We could not have had better weather and that was really fortunate considering just one week ago today we were caught in the terrible, cold rain storm during the Carnival Parade in Rethymno and all week, including yesterday, it has been very cold here on Crete.

The Girls with a T Rex at Dinosauria

While we were out in the park, one of the “park guides”, Anna, came and gathered the girls to take them to see the “Dinosaur Hospital.”  This was an indoor exhibit designed to demonstrate how Dinosauria envisioned a modern dinosaur veterinary clinic would operate if dinosaurs existed still today and needed to be treated for injuries and wounds.  In reality this was mostly a play on the intro to Jurassic Park to the point that they even had “Mr. DNA” and some scenes casually acted out.  It was neat, though, and the park guide walked Liesl mostly (Luciana is not the dinosaur expert like Liesl is who grew up watching “Dinosaur Train” religiously) on a personal educational lesson of the dinosaur hospital facility.  This was really nice.

Liesl at the Dinosaur Hospital

After the hospital there was a crafts area where the girls were given pens, markers and pencils and encouraged to draw dinosaurs.  They both did this and had a nice time.  They both did multiple pictures.

Luciana with the Dinosaur Family Exhibit

After doing the dinosaur drawings, the girls went out with Anna and she showed them where the sand pit to dig for dinosaur fossils was located.  She helped Luciana for a while and got her working on digging out some partially exposed bones.  It was very nice.

Liesl’s Dinosaur Drawing

Liesl then set to work trying to excavate something new.  Liesl was sad because she had tried to do this same thing at a museum in Dallas many years ago and all of the bigger kids there had managed to find bones and she did not find a single thing.  We had the same issue today, Luciana had bones immediately and Liesl put in at least half of an hour without finding anything (mostly because she was completely refusing to be methodical about it or to dig down deep enough to find things.)  I had to step in and do some hard digging in the wet sand while she was away so that I could get down to where there were going to be bones.  Then we let her come back and suddenly… she found bones under just a dusting of sand.  She was so excited and it really made her day.

Luciana Digging for Fossils

After the sand digging we finished up the walking around the park and went in to see the 3D movie.

There were actually two movies.  The theatre was little and sadly full of screaming kids from a single birthday party group other than the four of us.  We got the front row.  This is one of those theatres with moving seats so the girls sat on either side of me and I held onto them and Dominica had a row to herself.  The polish on the presentation here was weak.  They had a Windows XP desktop up and running with the desktop on the screen and just moving the mouse around to run an MPEG file for the videos.  Pretty silly.

The videos were very, very obviously low budget Chinese stuff.  Like really, really bad.  Even the file names and everything was in Mandarin and the credits looked like those silly late 1970s Golden Harvest films that Jackie Chan did when he was unable to get out of his early contracts. The film itself was horrible and made no sense.  It was in 3D but was just gibberish.  Parts of it were actually forgotten to be rendered – at a few points there would be a major scene object rendered for one eye and missing completely from the other eye for ten seconds or so then suddenly “pop” it would appear for the other eye – talk about phoning in the project!  The whole thing looked far worse than my current laptop could render a game on the fly!!

There was a second movie which was a horrible decade old Chinese roller coaster rendered film that was just so cheesy and I actually recognized it as one that I saw like a decade ago at some museum and thought that it was pretty terrible all of those years ago.  To see it again now was a bit sad.

The moving seats were pretty rough.  They were not set up to move properly with the films so it did not add anything but was actively confusing to the action on screen.  There was no finesse either, just all the way right, left or centre so even the tiniest action on screen either meant that you confusingly felt nothing or you were thrown violently to one side or the other far out of sync with the movie itself.

Dominica and I were not impressed but the girls were very happy and thought that it was a lot of fun.  So I guess that we cannot complain.  The reviews that Dominica had read said that they movies were fun for kids maybe up to ten but no older.  So we lucked out there.  The four and the seven year old approve.

That was it for the museum activities on the “inside”, next up was heading out to the large playground that the museum has.  This is, in reality, what the girls were most looking forward to.  Even though we have gone to the little playground in Irakleio the last two evenings, that one was little, there were very few kids, it was always late and for the most part there has been nowhere for them to put in some serious playground time the entire time that we have been in Greece.  They are big time playground kids so this is really important.

We spent the whole afternoon out on the playground.  We went through several coffees and a few sandwiches and two bottles of water while we sat out there.  The girls just played and played.  They had such a good time.  A huge playground, full of kids and amazing weather and tons of free time all on the same day!  It does not get much better than that.

Liesl decided that today ranked as the third best surprised day of all time (the best ever was some pajama day thing with her cousins that I was not around for.)

Happy Liesl Waiting on Food

Almost immediately the girls made a new friend, Eva, on the playground.  Eva was also four, the same age as Luciana, and Eva’s mother was hanging out in the little kid playground facility with Eva.  Our girls ended up introducing themselves and making friends and hanging out with them for hours.  Eva’s parents ended up staying all afternoon, just like us, so that the kids could play together.

We were probably done with the museum itself by one but we stayed on the playground until after four.  Everyone was exhausted by that point and the park itself closes at five.  We were just about the last people there when we finally started to pack up to leave.

Eva’s parents invited us over to their house, which was not far away, for coffee and to let the kids play for a while.  The girls were really excited to go to go over and hang out but then they remembered that they had a prior engagement this evening and were not able to have us over.  The girls were then very sad.  But we got their email and phone number as they want to keep in touch.  The girls have been needing friends to keep in contact with so this is really great!  We are invited to all get together and hang out the next time that we are on Crete and were told that we should come back in the summer when the beaches are in full swing.

The girls each got a stuffed dinosaur and a “grows in water” dinosaur egg from the gift shop before leaving and Dominica found a zipper pull thing that says “Francescasaurus” on it and as there are never things like that with Francesca’s name on it she had to get it for her.

LieslRex and Tyronociana as our friend Nizar in Morocco calls this

Everyone was asleep almost immediately once we were in the car and on the hour and a half drive back from the Dinosauria Park to Prines on the far western side of Rethymno.  It was not a bad drive but we were so tired, I was not in the mood for driving at that point.

It was not quite yet dark when we pulled into Prines.  The convenient parking by the church was all full and I went to drive to the back side of the village where there is space to park and ended up in one of those nose to nose situations where I had to back the car up through a street that was so narrow that most people would have been unwilling or possibly unable to drive through it forwards.  Always a fun challenge driving in Europe in these old villages.

We got everyone into the house, which is still pretty cold over here, and we were ready for doing “nothing” all evening.  Dominica camped out right away to do some reading.  Luciana and I did a little Sonic and Sega All Star Racing.  Then I set to catching up online, getting SGL updated and such.  We had a light dinner, just leftovers or whatever was around the house – this is our final week in Prines and we have to finish up all of the food in the house!

I cannot believe it, our time in Prines is over.  This is crazy.  Three months is not long enough at all for these stays.  We have now been in Prines longer than we have been in any other destination for the past year and it barely feels like we have been here.  We leave on the ferry from Chiana one week from tomorrow to work our way up to Athens.

Luciana and I played a little bit of some video games later on in the evening but not much.  Liesl played some Sims 3 and Luciana played some Castaway Paradise on their own.  Mostly they just watching videos.  Liesl sat in the living room watching Sailor Moon on the television and Luciana was watching YouTube on Dominica’s laptop.

It was an incredibly long but a really awesome day.  This was educational, fun and exhausting.  This is what a travelling family day is supposed to be like.  A major success.